Archdiocese of Washington Commended for “Exemplary” Child Protection Program

January 06, 2004

The Archdiocese of Washington received three commendations, no recommendations and no instructions for its “exemplary” child protection program, in a national audit of diocesan child protection efforts. The audit, conducted by the Boston-based Gavin Group for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, assessed how the nation’s 195 dioceses had complied with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. This document was adopted overwhelmingly by the nation’s Catholic bishops in June 2002. The Archdiocese’s audit results and other child protection materials are online at the Archdiocesan website; all diocesan results are at

Each diocese was assessed on how well it met specific requirements in four areas of the Charter: (1) promoting healing and reconciliation; (2) guaranteeing an effective response to allegations of abuse of a minor; (3) ensuring accountability of child protection efforts; and (4) protecting the faithful in the future.

Two auditors, former FBI officials, visited the Archdiocese August 11-15. They reviewed records, policies and materials and interviewed Archdiocesan, state’s attorney and law enforcement staff, pastors, a victim and others during an intensive review of Archdiocesan child protection efforts.

The Archdiocese, which has had a written child protection policy for 18 years, and which has long mandated reporting to civil authorities, criminal background checks for those working with children, stringent seminarian screening and pastoral care for those making allegations, received special commendations in three areas: (1) its FBI and Maryland state criminal background check requirement for employees and volunteers, including high-tech “live scan” fingerprinting; (2) the proactive creation of a Child Protection Advisory Board to assess, advise and monitor all child protection policies and procedures, in addition to a longstanding Case Review Board that advises on allegations against clergy; and (3) the personal efforts of Auxiliary Bishop Kevin J. Farrell in directing an “exemplary program” for child protection.

“I am grateful to have outside, independent auditors confirm that we are taking the steps we should to ensure children are safe in our care,” said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington. “We have worked for many years to prevent and to respond to the tragedy of child abuse, and are committed to continuing to doing so. I am grateful to our Child Protection Advisory Board for revising our policy last year, as well as our clergy, staff and volunteers who have worked so hard to make sure we are keeping children safe and are reaching out to those who have been hurt.”

The Archdiocese of Washington policy, audit and materials are at


Details of the commended programs follow:

Archdiocese of Washington Commended for Criminal Background Check Program

Commendation 1 (from independent audit of the Archdiocese released January 6, 2004): “For taking significant steps to ensure that appropriate background checks are conducted on all adults who have contact with children, including the implementation of a fingerprint system and the dedication of several full-time employees to the background check function.”

Archdiocesan policy on criminal background checks

The Archdiocese of Washington has required FBI and state criminal background checks for all employees who have substantial contact with children since 1993 and for volunteers since 1999. Fingerprints are used for these checks. Initially, employees had their prints taken at police stations. After 1999, parish volunteers were trained to take “ink and roller” prints in the parishes. However, the high fail rate of this method (requiring repeat attempts), the desire for better controls on recordkeeping and the number of people who needed to be fingerprinted led to another change.

Live-scan fingerprinting: first in the nation

In 2002, the Archdiocese of Washington became the first diocese in the nation to invest in state-of-the-art “live scan” fingerprint technology. Trained staff, whose sole responsibility is fingerprinting, use computer technology to scan the prints of employees and volunteers who will have substantial contact with children. The system is extremely accurate and, unlike previous methods, does not involve the use of ink. Those who need to be fingerprinted make an appointment at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center in Hyattsville, MD or one of two suburban locations, in Montgomery County and Charles County, MD.

Running the criminal background checks

A person’s fingerprints are printed onto FBI and Maryland state criminal background check cards and sent to the Criminal Justice Investigative Services of the Maryland State Department of Corrections (CJIS). The results of the criminal background checks are returned to the Office of Personnel and Benefits for confidential review.

Have background checks been effective?

Yes. Over the past few years, approximately five convicted sex offenders and others whose backgrounds make it inappropriate for them to supervise children in our care have been prevented from working or volunteering with children through this screening process; we anticipate others have been or will be deterred from applying.

Archdiocese of Washington Commended for its Child Protection Advisory Board and Case Review Board

Commendation 2 (from independent audit of the Archdiocese released January 6, 2004): “For being proactive in the establishment of two review boards: the Case Review Board, which reviews allegations of sexual abuse, and the Child Protection Advisory Board which assesses, advises and monitors all policies and procedures related to the protection of children.”

Case Review Board

The Archdiocese of Washington established a Case Review Board in the mid-1990s. This predominantly lay board advises the Cardinal-Archbishop on allegations against clergy. This review is separate from that of the civil authorities. The Board reviews the case and advises whether the allegations are credible and meet the definition of child abuse.

The board consists of 10 members, including eight lay people, one priest and one deacon. Eight are Catholic. Four are women; six are men; they are Anglo, African-American and Latino. The members’ professional experience includes hospital administration with experience in mental health care, work as a judge, lawyer, police officer, public administrator, licensed psychotherapist who works with sex offenders, licensed clinical social worker with experience with child sex abuse cases, licensed psychiatrist with community mental health experience and a school administrator with more than 30 years of education experience.

The U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People mandates each diocese have a case review board.

Child Protection Advisory Board

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, established the Child Protection Advisory Board in July 2002. This predominantly lay board, under the leadership of Mr. Shay Bilchik, president/CEO of the Child Welfare League of America, has been asked to review all Archdiocesan policies on child protection, recommend changes and monitor compliance.

The Board revised the Archdiocesan child protection policy in March 2003 and continues to monitor compliance with the policy through quarterly meetings and ongoing communication. Archdiocesan policy also calls for the Advisory Board and Case Review Boards to meet jointly each year.

The 10 members include a juvenile court judge; a retired police captain who oversaw hundreds of investigations of child abuse; a former Secretary of Human Resources for the State of Maryland; a priest; and experts in child welfare.

Commendation 3 (from an independent audit of the Archdiocese released January 6, 2004): “For the actions of auxiliary Bishop Kevin Farrell, who through his direction and example, helped the Archdiocese to establish an exemplary program for child protection.”

Susan Gibbs
Office of Communications
[email protected]